I have worked in the online ad world for a few years now, and have had the opportunity to review a large number of websites. Many were full of information with lots of bells and whistles and features that made them appear sophisticated, while others were skeletal in content and simple in their organization. Either of these types of sites may glean terrific results for the small business owner, but there are a few aspects that help to ensure that a search campaign launches successfully with very rapid ramp up in traffic delivery. Here are a few suggestions that may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many websites do not observe these simple practices!
Location, location, location
Sometimes website owners/business people must assume that if a visitor is looking at their website, that visitor must be in the same geographic location as the business. As we all know, this isn’t a given. Making sure your location is indicated on your website makes all the difference in how successfully you generate business. If you sell goods online, your location is not relevant. Anyone living anywhere can access your site and purchase your product(s). But if you are a brick and mortar establishment, counting on bringing customers in the door, you must provide your location. Potential customers want to know where you are in relation to where they are.
Define a service area
If you provide a service, such as a plumbing, your location may not be critical but your service area is. For any business that works with customers offline, where you are or the area you serve is vital to generate web traffic that can lead to paying customers. In my experience, if I cannot determine where the business is after a couple of clicks through a website, I will give up and move on to another provider. Don’t deprive yourself of available paying customers. Put that location on the site in an obvious, prominent place.
Locally targeted advertising
Related to that, if you serve a local area make sure that is where your ad appears. There is little value in broadcasting your ad placement across a geographic area you cannot service. Whether you are a brick and mortar or a service area-based business, target your ad to the geographic area you either expect your customers to come from or to the area you are willing to serve. Beyond that scope any click traffic to your site is largely wasted.
A third consideration: do not overload your website with too much content or too many fancy features. This may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it: if you bury your primary service or product amidst so much information that a viewer cannot find that salient info, you could lose potential customers. Too much can be as bad as not enough information. This doesn’t mean that if you are a plumber you cannot include information on different types of services you provide. It does mean that it would be wise to place information on different pages of your site. Provide a menu that is easy to find and follow, labeling each menu tab with a unique product or service. In this fashion, it’s easy to provide rich content but still allow the site user to find what they are looking for easily and quickly.
By the same token, don’t overload your site with music, scrolling text, rolling images, or excessive flash images. While each of these features might be nice enhancements, overdoing them can cause delays in page loading, which can cost you customers. Additionally, search engines (Google most specifically) weigh the time it takes for your website to load. Excessive load time can erode your quality score, hurt your ad ranking, and thus weaken your visibility and the consequent traffic you want to gain. Fewer potential customers may find you, resulting in lost business. A good rule of thumb is to make your site clean, clear, and easy to navigate. Make sure needed information can be found in one or two clicks. Your customers will thank you!
Not all non-profits are created equal
Finally, a last suggestion to those working in the not-for-profit sector: if your site includes a link to allow for donations, make sure you have the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit status clearly stated on the page where your click lands. Even if a viewer must click to a different page to make an online donation, the IRS info (501 c 3, as an example) must be found on the page where the initial click-through arrives. If the entity does not have this information on the page, a strong likelihood exists that search engines will reject the campaign. Do not run the risk of delaying your campaign launch by not having this content visible.
Unfortunately, there are people who try soliciting funds online for all kinds of reasons. I’ve seen people asking for donations because they wanted to buy a house, because they wanted to go to college, and because they got in trouble with the law. While those may all be worthy reasons and warrant charitable assistance, they are not recognized by search engines as viable solicitations. So for all of the bonafide non-profits out there, make sure this content is included. It will ensure your campaign will begin serving without delay.
If the suggestions here are considered during the construction of a website, the ease of launching a successful site will be evident.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.